Of the many confusing subcategories of winter sports enthusiasts, the easiest to discern are the two types of downhill skiers. In a crowded gondola long ago, do you remember bracing your skis on your boot to make them look longer? If so, you’ve probably been aging for years and were once eager to bluff to look like a pro on the slopes. Then there are all the others.
If, like me, you belonged to the first category, the length of the day was the hallmark of expertise on the slopes. Franz Klammer raced to Olympic gold on a monstrous 7½ft (2.3m) pair in Innsbruck – so if you wanted to improve your credentials, size mattered. Then came snowboards and the parabolic revolution. The well-made hourglass has replaced the straight stick case and size doesn’t matter so much anymore. Years later, how does the humble bluffer, like me, look like an expert now?
You can always make your own. It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. A new workshop in the Swiss resort of Verbier can help you shape the perfect pair of boards to suit your size, weight and piste preferences – the golden ticket to looking like a pro. First Track Lab is the brainchild of Yoann Chapel and Selim Abdi, a classic duo of disruptors looking to shake up traditional ski manufacturing.
Their “laboratory” is a small industrial unit in Le Châble, a short cable car ride from the chic Swiss resort, from where they do research, development and prototyping for several established ski manufacturers, including giant Decathlon. They also have their own brand – Anticonf – which won an innovation award in 2017 for its pioneering work with cork and bamboo. Anticonf means anti-conformist of course; no wonder for a duo who met in the extreme world of freeboard.